“Hell will have millions of wills hating each other forever”

Caesar could brook no superior, as would Pompey no equal’

These of the type, imperator, run mad to be at governing people

Whose heads overstock self-regard in a block, here’s no standing room

But the history books harvester suchlike men, the inexorable years consume

 

No egress delivers their hidebound-haught, nor a root humility

And their liberal allowance of a goodly God, is all expedient utility

By investment’s presents, they ape a fondly forgiving magnanimity

Publishing edicts grandiose; they’re the germens of niggard vanity

 

Dominion bids all their will concert, bear down, and so persever

Forcing towards aggrandisements, to beyond even death’s river;

Fell certain their ludicrous revelries present no bar to Lethe

Whilst counting out honeypot moieties prorogued albeit obliquely

 

Such gooks are to whom we trust ourselves, our very beings,

The Hectoring ombudsmen’s statecrafter reparteeings

Buyers and sellers in stockmarkets dealing future country matters

Men who would have themselves philanthropes, and good-batters

 

The costumes appear all altered, the same old brass orations

Pinning tails on the donkeys so to suit destitute situations

Expending elastic reasoning upon extruded attributions

Wills working up saliencies corrupt, care of the form of words

 

Adding in slants, their havocs angle as judicial truth

Sworn statements at heel well-tethered, underwrite anew

Some dummy idle-notion motions; incident to rudder

Using cable-ties, and sisal strings; and epoxy gum palaver

 

All government aims at, fast maintains, the claims to its accession

That a frame up rule may be done by a fool in his frequent fits of passion,

Add a semblance of trait like a conscionable face to his imposture

And the winds’ welfare blows better blustering clothes than’s lacklustre

 

The game is to say, and to stay at all costs, one is winning

Nor losing; the name’s in the title, possession’s most vital, concerning

A sped Union Address on this knacker’s yard shed mediaeval

Look you tough in a suit standing tall, even when you’re weasel

 

Satisfy happy hands rapping hard marching bands in a tunnel

Where the lights have gone phutt, nonetheless all’s about gloss enamel

Lo, and a roar breaks, and a train’s making shakes: This Convention

Is a coda; moreover, the leader’s last texts got a mention

BBC Presents: The News – aka: The Good Old Conservative Club

Norm is a regular voter, wears a knowing boater hat

In the summer on the backs, or playing on lawns with jacks

A figure fifty years or more time-challenged going back

Who swills down Abbott Ale from a hefty fifty gallon sack

 

Don is of higher circles, is patrician altogether

Surrounded, set on full jam shelves, of a regal bonded leather

He likes to think he’s hyper-hip to tip the wink to others

On what’s the trended forecast. Then there’s that Carruthers,

 

A blithering fuss of ill-presumed half-formed intent

Ever emblazoning rampant couchant camp accoutrements

Of a bankrupt-mind Micawber wearing prissy points of view

That as things were he estimates has long been overdue

 

Such creatures are the surplus, upkeep daffodilled roundabouts

Concieve policemen overgrown undergraduate boy scouts

Approve the Raleigh bicycle and an early Evensong

Make all excuse to hear themselves talk blethers all day long

 

Their scions shine, the talking classes, daughters? hardly, nay,

(The Ladies are preternatural talkers nonetheless they say)

Hear you their TV buckshot commentators’ scattergun array

Here the alumni parcelling out the beans-in-sauce they spill

 

Not Heinz, no way; perhaps some fancy high-end food hall brand

Tasting like dockers’ loincloths, labelled Made in Disneyland

That pours out dry and non-revealing cuts of reformed ham,

Frittered and culled in the early mornings from the Tabloids’ charabanc

 

Dressings of mighty-obvious grace a sterling brand new plate

Of filleted cods overcooked, but cold, because arriving late

Bones yet within it, not yet made about with and so picked

‘Just sound-off as if you know your stuff’ – indeed that’s all the trick!

 

Guys they get handsome paid for pushing tour de force boiled scraps

A bubble ‘n squeak of rumour ghosting bogies’ late-sprung traps

New laid and dusted over with a sprig of painted folly

Here are the feeds from prigs who fire up simple people’s worry

 

Everything’s normal, everything is tout suite correct, secure,

Just as so long as who’s in power remains (of course) in power

Be wary though, of others, the foreign sorts, or those inept,

Ot that just plain dangerous thinking sort: thus is the day’s collect

 

Incanted every day to every high church dancing measure

Set to the full variety of received chant as forgathered

Bound-up, and published, imprimis, in service books of text,

One takes ensample illustrations from, they’re graded to perplex

 

A captive Tory audience, wandering desert Promised Lands

Looking for one like Moses, one whose bought assurance stands,

When greatly in consternation at the new perturbance thrummed

Construing its sombre dooms to pledge a bleak November land:-

 

Their indifference confounds together, now and ever; news and views

Their informers, provoking ever, look for the next-up reed to bruise

The Developer: Client Relations 1: Setting Expectations

As like all of us, clients need quite a bit of repetition, if they are to take in and grasp any terms one attempts to set as ‘rules’ upon the hiring of you as developer to make their software and design works.

There is no use in being anything but straightforward and repetitive; nothing complicated by hedges and conditionals; simple statements in simple language; and the same messages regarding terms when spoken to a client as when writing to a client.

Not dictatorial butyet assertive and clear.

These rules ought to be more or less the same set for all your clients. In this they are rather principles of how one oneself goes about ones work and about managing one’s relations with one’s clients. They should be set down in the written Agreement between Parties to the works. They should be offered to the client again in full in the initial progress report you write up for the client; and every now and then, say once a month, the client is reminded of the efficacy of these terms of yours in progess reports.

Such reminders can be vareigated so as not to some like dictatorship, and hinted at but not too vaguely, so that they seep into the relationship gradually and without too much heavy-handedness on your part.

Your terms need to be able to set for the client those expectations a client might reasonably desire, and also they need to set those expectations of behaviour and those protocols which you feel are fair and equitable, but yet they will allow you to work without you getting embroiled and having to manage difficult or crumbling human relations between yourself and the client as you go and ‘on the hoof’.

All the above is an ideal scenario; and of course no set of laid down expectations for clients and for their developers in practice is going to prevent utterly a need for relations to be managed day to day at least somewhat.

Thes expectations need to be formulated, written down and communicated to the client as soon after hiring as is practicable; certainly before any agreement with a client is signed by a developer. Even during negotiations previous to hiring their content ought to be made use of during the negotiation process; so that the cleint has ‘no illusions’ about where a developer satands and how he works.

As a general rule it is always for the best that in negotiations and Agreements, Requirement Documents and Specifcations etc; as much as is possible to be set or settled between parties up front before work on coding/design actually begins. Thus everyone concerned ought to know where they stand and also have in place clear understandings of whatis required of them; when what is reqired is expected; and how the work is in general going to progress.

Rules for behaviour and for settlement of non-deal breaking disagreements, say on how to do a piece of work or what software to use; as well as dealines and billing etc, ought to be laid down and laid out and acknowledged as read and understood by parties.

Behavioural rules will always inevitably be broken in the course of the relationship, but the idea of the writen down and acknowledged agreed protocols is that they act as a guide and a reference point to which a party is able to point and so point up such breaches. An appeal to the ‘spirit of the agrements’ is able to be had by a party with some evidence (the protocols themselves) being available to support such an appeal .

Now all the above so far might seem to you as if it is too longwinded and cumbersome to bother with so as to put in place. Too much time; too much bother; when all that is required and expected is software etc written. For smaller projects maybe there’s a case for saying this with some justice; although for anything above medium sized projects our experience at Anomalist Design LLC has reiterated almost without exception that every client relationship over extended time will require more time and more careful management from parties; this being time and attention which wil eat into development time per se severely and cost you considerably in delays and distractions, in comparison to a situation where you had to put in place up front at the beginnging between parties such mutual safeguards as I am outlining here.

The keys to successful ‘prenuptial-type’ protocols of this kind are:

Comrehensiveness – i.e. any written terms being suficent to cover most or all of the usual sticking points which any experienced developer will know are commonplace arising in the course of working on projects

Clarity of language – i.e. that there in minimum room in writen terms for ‘other interpretations’ or ‘escape hatches’ or else plain fudging becuase of exploitations of vagarires.

Equity of approach – i.e. the terms are fair and balanced; apply whereever appropriate to all parties; demand nothing onerous or drastic excepting in conditions governming extreme situations arising and so are proportional. Where there is room for reasonable doubt on an issue; it is a good because generous policy for the disadvantaged party to allow a benefit of the doubt to the other parties.

Firm answers/courses of action for hypothetical situations foreseen arising – i.e. do not shy away fromcommonplace worst case scenarios – but instead takle th epossibility of the in the shape of rules, protocols, time constraints, recompense, sufficiency of redress/recovery.

Nothing redundant – i.e. be as brief as clarity and comprehensiveness will allow

Setting Agreed and Understood Expectations – i.e. which should be matched with wholehearted commitment to fuflling these when situations arise

Setting Boundaries – i.e. over which parties do not step and were they to step over one of them then set….

Penalties kick in – i.e. and these are concretely expressed and definite in their execution and effects.

Some examples of the kinds of things which are the nitty-gritty, the detail of such key components of up-front Agreements; that is, actual terms and the set expectations etc, themselves will be laid out in another aritcle in this series; together with possibly an instance of such an Agreement which Anomalist Design LLC has used with some success in the course of its working life.

Should you not feel confident about your abilities for drafting such a set of terms; there are web entities which for a small fee are willing to scan and consider your draft|(s) and offer good hints and advice on how to tighten them up and make them good.

Do not duck out altogether and leave it to your admin to deal with writing such items. You need to be initmately familiar with their contents, and with what you are in fact committing to when you sign.

Your efforts at practicing making such documents are able to add clarity to your own vision for the project in hand, and has many such ‘spin-offs’ of benefit to you in clarifying your role(s) in the works. Coninuing perseverance in drafting such documents also will bring little by little greater clarity and penetration to your other written documents; specs and requirement docs, etc; and even to your abilities to envisage routes down which to follow so as to architect projects in general.

The rule here is a general life rule: Nothing, no experience is wasted; whether good or bad, success or failure, loss of gain; all is grist to the mill for the person who is happy to examine his/her experience and draw the life-lessons arising from their examination.

More is to follow. Watch this space.

Lawful Mischief: Let the Buyer Beware

In a recent article I wrote about how unforeseen liabilities incurred by many manufacturers are as a rule passed down through their marketing and supply chains to a consumer public for it to bear.

Wayback now I wrote and noted how in the course of the 18th century here in Britain at a time when The Agrarian Revolution occurred, which preceded The Industrial Revolution, and encouraged the well-off to make an outrageous land-grab by taking from the ordinary person ancient rights of access to land for grazing and firewood etc. This land grab was carried out by well-off people ‘enclosing’ land. That is, setting up fences which kept out others, and even those who formerly had had rights of access etc.

The land grab was made because new ways of intensive farming were beginning to make cultivation of the land become a booming business venture; the land grabs were made for money; for pursuit of gain; and at the expense of that class of person who had little enough anyway on which to subsist.

Thus by way of what amounted to a manipulation of justice, laws were passed, Enclosure Acts, and these laws legitimised and made ‘above board’ at least in a temporal world, these shameful landgrabs of greed.

Going back to ancient times – I have told this story before too – there was Alexander the Great, ruler of all the known world by way of sweeping war and conquest – his empire. At one time before Alexander stood for judgement a pirate who was allowed to speak a few words in his own defence. The pirate is said to have said to Alexander something of this sort: ‘I have robbed and raided just a few odd ships here and there; but you have raided and pillaged whole nations.’

The pirate’s argument is wholly sound. I don’t know what happened to him?

The point being made by me by giving you all these examples of what I have titled ‘Lawful Mischief’; is that here with us today are the petty Alexanders and the legitimised theives and the manipulating defrayers of liability; and we all allow them to trade still and we are all too often hoodwinked by one or two of them and their sly ways.

The remainder of this article is going to course through about a half dozen examples of present day hoodwinking; most being within the law; some worked by traders; some by consumers; and some beyond the law; criminal. The aim of doing this coursing through examples is to demonstrate how the law in many instances is no adequate protection against a person being cheated, hoodwinked. I make this review of scams, legal and illegal, to demonstrate to you the fact that there are as flagrant and wicked ill-doers sheltering under the legal side of trading, as there are on the criminal side; and that taken as a whole and ethically speaking, those persons on the right side of the law and those persons on the wrong side of it, in fact have very little to differentiate them one from another.

Which of them is worse is hard to say. The crimimals have honesty on their side in that they never intended to give their activites a makeover gloss of lawfulness. Yet the criminals to are those who are the more brasen in that they show no regard for staying within the law.

Much of the Lawful Mischief I am going to example is carried on by bigger companies; most especially by those companies who have a disproportionately large market share of trading compared to their nearest competitiors; and then there is another typical large company format which is ace at brewing Lawful Mischief; which is the large company which holds presitgious Brands and Marks, and often also they hold, so as to fortify their trading supremacies, state sanctioned monopolies in the shape of patents copyrights and design rights; all of which hedge them around with an exclusivity for their prestigious Branded products.

In such larger companies as those whose habit is to practice these Lawful Mischiefs, there is likely to be, I doubt there are any without, a dedicated marketing department of ‘creatives’ – misnomer – a large and hothouse department wherein astute men and women dream up attractive but in the main tacky ideas. These are stewed up and offered for consideration, testing and trial in the company; with an eye solely and wholly on impressing the consumer with a false asumption that here is a fantastic deal or offer, when the deal or offer for a consumer is inevitably and in fact a cognitive deceit and illusion.

Let’s take the most topical of these Legal Mischiefs; one come to light today; that airlines are in a habit of deliberately overbooking passenger numbers on flights. The aim is to ensure that every flight takes off with a full payload of passengers; thus the airline profits in this resepct are always maximised. Whenever turn up to fly too many passengers, airlines are in the habit of offering sums of money to volunteers amongst passengers who are happy to fly later on another flight; to just sufficient numbers of passengers willing to opt for a voluntary delay. They are paid to demur from the present flight, so as to make the flight 100% full and no less.

Now today it was reported on BBC News that a man had been forcibly removed from a flight because he had not been willing to accept payment and take a later flight. The man got a bloody nose into the bargain from an airline ‘heavy’ and other passengers were vexed – I’m not sure whether about the delay or about the treatment given the man?

Now airlines so far as I know are springing it on passengers expecting a seat once the passengers are boarding, that some of them will not get that flight. So one might believe one has a valid ticket to fly but in fact one has not. And one does not realise this is so until boarding.

The man forcibly removed did not want to miss his booked flight; he was unwilling to be bought off; he was unwilling to leave the plane; and he was manhandled off it.

Now this scenario of the extra passenger who does not want to leave the plane one would think would have been an inevitable thing for the airline concerned to have envisaged as a likely scenario bound to happen sooner or later? I do believe that the airline did envisage it but true to form the airline just let it go and opted to deal with such as case when the occasion(s) arise(s). I say true to form because of the presuppositions of the airlines who do this kind of practice are tellingly revealling to consider.

The part of this ‘marketing’ of Lawful Mischief, in this case, by the airlines, which stands out like a sore thumb, is the presupposition that the airline is/would be – able to buy off sufficient passengers always every time so as to make everything, everytime, go hunky dory for them. The thought that money does not speak sufficiently loudly to some people who are being asked to leave a flight never entered their calculations. Their own great avarice to maximise profits by ensuring via this marketing wheese that evey flight of theirs is 100% full on takeoff, this has led them to believe that money offers to voluntarily delayed passengers would always carry the day and bear the sway.

And so here today we had a man not to be bought off, and in a hurry to get somewhere; a misfit; an odd sort of person who did not fit the smart airline buisiness model; labelled a troublemaker by the airline’s CEO; given a bloody nose by an ‘official’; and frog-marched off by heavies against his will and angrily shouting and resisting.

This then is one of many such legitimate faces of trading in our laissez faire competitive political economy. Laissez faire means ‘Let’s do it’; and the term emphasises freedom and freedom of choice, thus free trade and open competition et al. The onus of laissez faire is ever upon those who trade and do business, for them to set their own terms; and hey presto, the hallowed marketplace is the arena which by a kind of Darwinian Natural Selection, approves or disapproves the terms any trader sets. The buying consumer in theory has a right to buy or to walk and go elsewhere. Thus in theory the consumer carries out the final verdict on the trader, on his goods/services and on his terms.

The consumer then in theory is the natural and actual curb on the rapaciousness of any trader.

One might classify the following aspects of doing business as a company today in the consumer society, as being wily ways invented by such companies deliberately so as to circumvent in their favour this extremely theoretical Let’s do it laissez faire in our would-be open society’ of ‘autonomous ‘checks and balances’; all supposedly built into the system by a form of ‘naturalmeans. The smart Alec henchmen and women of such companies in their marketing departments act to back the companies to the very hilt in a quest for their own fulfillments of greed, power, and avarice. The circumventing aspects of business in the main are:

  • Marketing and marketing departments
  • Advertising
  • Patents, Designs and Copyrights
  • Trademarks and Branding
  • Licensing of rights
  • Dividing up trading territories
  • Following (globally)the cheapest markets to make goods/offer services in/from
  • Setting up Charitable Foundations
  • Creative Accounting
  • Tax Avoidance

There are more – these are more than enough for now.

Everything on this list is done religiously avidly by, especially, larger companies, and by those companies aspiring to reach the heights; it is done primarily by them so as to bias the Let’s do it laissez faire open-endedness of theory deeply, profoundly and dreadfully in their favours in practice.

I am able, if I had enough time and patience, to demonstrate to you in words and examples how each of these aspects listed works in the great favour of the companies who practice it; and on the other hand to the deep detriment of the ‘buck stops here’ consumer. If you had enough patience also?

Before I leave the airline malpractice example which I began with I want to add something final which my wife brought up when we heard about what was going on. She said: ‘why doesn’t the man sue the airline for breach of contract?’. I thought about it and said: ‘Because of the long and dreary costly bother of setting up a small claims case; and because of a residual uncertainty about not wining the case.’

Law here in UK and I guess it’s worse in USA is too expensive for the common person. Justice costs too much. It is too slow and too uncertain. A large company is able to spin-out cases indefinitely and to take them to the limits of The Supreme Court if necessary; when much is at stake for them. They are able easily to daunt or weary or cow or deter ordinary Joe and Jane Soaps from taking them on. It is David versus Goliath but with Goliath bashing the stuffing out of David every time.

And this fact of the sheer dominance of companies leads inevitably to their using their dominance to oppress lesser entities and persons. Consider your own experience; consider how many times you have been more or less forced to pay demands and extras and small but significant add-ons and service charges and so on by the companies you deal with in the course of your upkeep of your household? In my own experience I can say hand on heart that never before has so much money left my household and gone unexpectedly, unduly, and irrecoverably, to utilities, to taxes, to IT and Comms services, to all kinds of traders and leviers, than it has done over the past two or three years.

Particularly I believe the situation has worsened so much because so many companies and their employees and so much marketing and other wheezes have been at work and have put in place so many ‘milch cow’ wiseacre Lawful Mischiefs so that the balance between the consumer and trading companies is now well out of kilter; extremely so.

The simple fact that there is no adequate or straightforward means of redress at the disposal of a consumer right now has allowed companies of all kinds to exploit to the very brim of the trough wheezes which bring in a kind of ‘rapine’ income to them.

This then is that Triumph of Capitalism, so much lauded and made so much of; by the same persons and their businesses who are wringing dry the very pockets of the common person. It’s just another form of totalitarianism; one sanctioned by governments. And were it not sanctioned by governments, nevertheless governments today are ever more abject and at the behest of large companies and so are kowtowing to and mollifying and soliciting them and their wealth and power; begging them almost to come and trade build or sell in this particular neck of the woods.

Yet governments as they go are also are compiled of persons the same who sit on boards and who are in the pay of large companies; even of persons running conglomerates as Captains of Industry themselves. The parallel accords with that of the academics in The West; who are now businessmen; and as such are in the pockets of and in the pay of industry and its Captains.

These Captains are the new Tamburlains and Genghis Khans; Sennacheribs and Piccolominos of the world. Their ambitions universally are forever for a greater dominance; of their competitors and of their consumer publics; whom they screw as tightly as their smart Alec wise-guy idea departments can muster.

Let’s take a few smaller but yet very significant examples of ‘screw you Joe Public!’

It has been customary in former but recent years in the UK for smaller manufacturers of car spare parts to be allowed a waiver in regard to those patents which protect, fortify and surround with a hedge the big car manufacturers’ automobiles, so that these smaller firms are able to produce spare parts for cars whose designs etc are yet still under patent. The same logic has always applied likewise to IT manufacturers of hardware and of the sundries which their hardware requires. I mean items like printers and phones as hardware, and sundries like batteries and inks.

Yet use Apple’s i Phone i Tunes software on your Microsoft desktop to upload one’s phone data and save it temporarily; and then try to restore/repair your i phone’s software using the i Tunes app, and lo, when your battery in your phone is a replacement, and not an Apple battery, one is likely to run into problems; and your restore/repair is likely to fail. You are left high and dry. No forewarning on the i tunes app software notices or information; nothing obviously present without reading through reams of Terms and Conditions before using the i Tunes software.

Thus the ‘spare parts’ waiver on the patent useful to small manufacturers of replacement batteries for Apple phones is circumvented, made null land void, in respect of resetting and restoring your phone. One cannot but believe Apple has set this state of affairs up deliberately; a sort of ‘dog in the manger’ trick so as to do as much as they are able to ‘tie in’ their consumers to Apple branded goods only.

I wrote in another piece recently about ‘Tommy Shops’ having been historically present in the South Wales Valleys mining communities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Miners were paid in ‘tokens’ issued, minted, by the employer, the coal pit owner, who had also set up shops selling all the things needful for life, and which was the only place that redeemed the employer’s tokens. These were Tommy Shops. In this way the employer was able to exploit the miners even when the miners were not digging out coal for him. Miners and their families were wholly tied-in to using employers’ Tommy Shops to buy all their worldly goods in.

Is not this Apple battery Legal Mischief not another incarnation of the Tommy Shop and its tokens? I think so.

Now printers. Printers historically I have seen them being ‘given away’ gratis at stores – a large and complex piece of state of the art electronics being given out like sweets are offered in a hotel reception. The trick, the wheeze, the Legal Mischief being that printer inks are horrendously and outrageously expensive, and last disappointingly very briefly before a refill is needed. Thus a printer is joyfully taken away gratis by a very happy shopper who then spend five or six years paying through the nose for it in ridiculously priced ink refills.

Now the small firms spare parts waiver of patents on printers kicks in; and small firms begin making ‘compatible cartridges’ for the ‘free’ printers. The printer makers hit back. Soon a printer arrives on the market which will work only with ‘genuine’ Branded to the printer manufacturer’s ink refills. It is the Apple, and the Tommy Shop story over again; and over again.

We all know these small scale Legal Mischiefs and for the most part we accept them as part of the detail of modern life. It says something sordid about modern life that we have to do so. We have to do so because usually there’s no alternative other than a new printer or a new phone. Captive markets we are. Tommy Shop traffic

And the old Scots saying that: ‘Many a mickle makes a muckle’ applies. It is a few $ or £ extra for us every time we buy a battery or an ink; but for Apple and for the printer Companies this few extra $ or £ amounts to billions across the years. Worse, they feel they are entitled to this windfall which they have worked their way by their machinations with patent law and with spare parts; all’s fair in love and war – and in business.

Thus we come to charity. There is no charity in business, that is why Apple and Printer Companies set things up and set us up the way they do. How many other similar ‘tie-ins’ to Tommy Shops do you know of; have affected you? Remember it’s all part of that laissez faire Let’s do it; that freedom to choose and that allowing the marketplace to settle issues of supply, demand, pricing, stocks, profit, and value. I don’t think so.

Just like loaded dice, we are on the other end of a bum deal. Just like the big guy with the loot on the poker table is able to blow away the little guys by raising them so high their hair stands on end and they cannot follow because their money and credit does not stretch that far. This is what it looks like from our end of laissez faire.

Some more – and more substantial – examples.

Charity. Burger King and MacDonald’s. Burger King has pulled off a major coup in marketing. It has won the prize awarded by companies like itself who value these marketing wheezes. Burger King approached MacDonald’s with a proposition that they join forces so as to produce a sort of ‘charity burger’. The proceeds, part of them, will go to needy causes.

What a wheeze! A fait acompli by Burger King indeed! MacDonald’s might hardly have refused such an approach from Burger King. How would it look in the ensuing publicity – the tabloids no doubt being encouraged by a very accessible and amenable Burger King to report big on such a remiss refusal by MacDonald’s.

So MacDonald’s more or less dragooned into the wheeze by a sort of (im)moral blackmail. And to boot Burger King comes out smelling of roses because it was Burger King who had the idea and who initiated it and who approached MacDonald’s. Thus Burger King is the top dog in the partnership no doubt.

And for charity too – the icing on the cake – what a wheeze! The charity bit to Burger King is worth every penny donated; as a smart polish and shine for company image and reputation – especially seeing that MacDonald’s is paying a substantial amount of it! MacDonald’s is merely the poor relation here. Caught out by a smart Alec in Burger King’s marketing factory. It seems to me only incidental that there is a charity element in play in the arrangement. It is the kingpin of the marketing ploy as ploy; but only incidental that the needy get something out of it. That’s why it got the marketing prize. I’m not a cynic – I’m a truth teller. I am single-minded about straight down the line dealing – and am unhappy with sly tricks.

There are more. I may let some remain for another follow up on this topic – there’s so much to cover. One last example – of the consumers taking the hint from their masters, the companies; and taking a leaf out of their books.

There is a scam going on here in UK for some years now concerning driving and cars. It became the ‘fashion’ that whenever one was in a bump in a car one would claim insurance payout for the ubiquitous and inevitable ‘whiplash’ one had suffered. ‘Whiplash’ is a strain of the neck cause by a vehicle juddering to a very sudden halt in a bump. Likewise, another consumer wheeze – claiming on gas appliance insurance – by taking it out in early spring and claiming in autumn but the heating being broken from before the time you took insurance out.

Of course, as fashions, these things merely put everyone’s insurance premiums up severely and their cost becomes distributed, diffused by the insurance companies, to the consumer’s pocket – yet again.

Another vehicle scam was that persons would buy up an old worn out car and insure it as if it were new. Then crash it – a write-off. That too ended up as a bill for the likes of you and me.

Lastly before I stop I want to give an example or two of collusions between companies and consumers to fix up a wheeze by which both make some cash – though there are caveats.

The first example is the guy with the billboard who accosts you in the high street asking you whether you’ve had an accident in the past 3 years. He, his company will fight your case ( which you never knew you had till now) and get you compensation (which you never knew you could get till now); and the thought of this is supposed to light up a cash till inside your head and show you daydreams of a cruise or of a couple of days abroad. Greed is the spur – but the guy is offering you a sprat to catch a mackerel for himself.

These claims are notorious for not paying out what they promise. Very often most of the money compensated, when there is actually money compensated, surprise, surprise, is swallowed up in legal bills to the firm who was so concerned that you should have gotten justice for your accident that was not your fault. The final fillet on the bait is – a no win no fee pledge – and the mouthwatering avarice driven passer-by is then hooked.

Likewise on the phone here in UK today about half one’s calls are scams. One which is a Lawful Mischief is concerning PPI – Private Property Insurance or something like that. It was something ‘mis-sold’ to house buyers for a long period before the 2008 crash. Even now, after four or five years of scattergun cold calls about that money due to you from your mis-sold PPI the calls keep coming in; and big hoardings at junctions here still are carrying new posters such as ‘ There’s still billions of unclaimed PPI!’.

The whole economy here seems ever more and more to be becoming a big game of gambling and windfalls; gambling one loses and windfalls which are so light they barely hit the ground. Money in truth has become our raison d’etre – get it any way we can – above or below the board – licit, illicit, scam or wheeze – they’re all valid.

Everyone is game for some Lawful Mischief; instead of freedom its a chaos of free for all, two falls two submissions or a knockout. Freedom is precious – to be guarded by way of self restraint and due consideration. What we have is a riot, a mess, a confusion of voices shouting to one another and only each individual listening to his/her own voice and to no-one else’s.

Not freedom – wanton license.

Icebergs and Salmon

Iceberg Lettuce and Smoked Salmon in fact. A little tour through the recent price hikes occurent in the UK presently, whereby this lettuce has tripled in price and this salmon has risen in price by over 50%. More or less overnight.

The reason for both hikes, in their ‘official’ versions, has been the same for both; a blight. In the case of lettuce a blight by insects; for salmon I believe a fungus or bacterial blight.

Both of these grocery items are farmed these days in specially dedicated enclosures; under artificial daylight inside huge hangars for lettuce; and in saltwater chemically-controlled ‘ponds’ for salmon.

Both grocery products are being farmed en masse so as to bring to the ordinary person’s pocket these high-end delicacies. In the doings do, the real high-ender consumers have moved on to sea-caught, sometimes labelled ‘line-caught’, fresh salmon and weirdly named ‘organic’ lettuces ‘farmed naturally’.

The high-end consumers then have moved to yet higher ground and their vacated space is now occupied by the hoi polloi.

Of course and needless to say the pond-farmed salmon and the daylamp grown lettuce is not as flavoursome and delicate in taste as the sea-caught and ‘naturally farmed’ items. But they have been for most of us better than having none of them.

I dare to believe that both blights, on daylamp lettuce and on farmed salmon, are a natural consequence of men and women ‘taking mother nature’s place’ and believing that we as a species can do it as well as she is able to. I have little doubt that these blights are a symptom, and a warning which will go wholly unheeded by their farmers, of nature prevailing regardless, and as it were are ‘one in the eye’ for our overblown scientific pretensions.

This then represents another instance of that sheen of perfection which our science and its scientists would surround themselves and their works with, thus this gloss being little else than or anything better than that ubiquitous ‘corporate image’ of spick and span 100% pristine presentation which their corporate cousins who as emulators of Pope Francis can never put a foot wrong. One might baptise it by the name of ‘PayPal Infallibility’.

These blights then are presented by scientists as being curiously interesting developments and deserving of their further study (and they would say, mastering) developments which could not have been foreseen and so no comeback on the lab boffins at all.

Whereas for the Monsantos and Solutias of this world, the same curiously interesting development of blight is portrayed in their press releases as having been ‘an Act of God’ as it were, a sudden descent of a plague of locusts and due to the fickle and unsettled nature of things in the world. No tarnish attached to their shining public-image facade.

No-one whose ideas and plans put into action on these farms was and is to take any blame or to be held accountable; no-one might have foreseen these blights. That is to say no-one who has not read or listened to the history of commercialism and taken note of man and woman’s ludicrous track record in dealing with, and ‘subduing nature’, since the Industrial Revolution first took off and took us over?

Maybe quietly in the background behind the scenes a head or two will roll; a few ‘fall guys’, those who seem to be the ‘weakest links’, will be ousted onto the unemployment line; and ‘justice’ will have been seen to be done by the remainder of their employees.

In both marketing and in the labs a setback is always a cue for a Boardroom to make a small purge of lesser talent; those who are not delivering what their prospects promised at the first. George W Bush and Tony Blair together did no less no more in making use of the horrific Twin Towers to settle their hashes with bad guy Saddam Hussain.

I am assuming with all alacrity that there are men and women employed in secret governmental and commercial recesses across the world whose jobs are to put together contingency plans for a long list of desired but outrageous political and commercial policies and actions, with an eye to suitable ones being retrieved from the files, upon suitable and significant news events having occurred, under the auspices of which some of these dreadful ill-hatched plans might be slipped into place and given wings to fly.

(Again and again I have seen advertising – recently from a power company and another from a confectionery company – two instances – which makes blatant bad faith usage of government responses to public pressure which have compelled the energy company to reduce its prices and compelled the confectionery company to be more candid about its candies. Ads such as ‘we’ve reduced our prices!’ and ‘now with more milk added!’ – by which the companies had ‘come clean’ about their having been under compulsion?? – I don’t think so!)

There’s a very real sense around today in my experience that the outlook of governments and of commercial companies is becoming evermore one of ‘tell them anything’ – the public – ‘and they’ll believe it!’. And of course such an outlook in its bearers breeds very soon a low contempt for the people, the public, the electorate, the consumers, whom they are deceiving.

Now iceberg lettuces and smoked and fresh salmon went sky-high in the shops about six weeks ago and neither has yet ‘fallen back to earth’. Smoked salmon scraps, those pieces collected off the machinery which packages the product, which would be rated ‘waste’ to a high-end consumer, are being offered at £14 per kilo. A pack of 120 grams was offered locally by me at a price almost as high as a pack of 100 grams of the salmon itself.

For the salmon which carried recommendations such as ‘oak smoked’ and ‘west highland’ a kilo might cost right now, in an ordinary supermarket, nothing fancy, up to £40. Iceberg lettuces once selling at 40 or 50p each are now to be had for not less than 90 pence, being a lot smaller to boot than the former once were.

Now neither of these price hikes have dropped down to ‘normal’ levels again. Yet what is the lifecycle of lettuce and salmon growing, fromone crop to the next, in such factory farming which these creatures are being ‘forced’ by artificial means including use of God-knows-what pharmaceuticals? Not six weeks I’d hazard. A lot less.

But as one says, as certainly do the growers, ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing.’

My main point however is that the losses incurred by these blights of a course, and without a blink of an eye, in every case, be it sugar or foie gras, of salt or watercress, are front-loaded into the supply chain and are ending up on the doorstep of the consumer every time. Those to whom the blight happened, those who took no responsibility for these ‘acts of God’ having occurred, also will not accept any losses these blights cause them to incur. Instead that remaining saleable lettuce and salmon is salvaged, marketed as hiked in price – scarcity!, scarcity!, they cry, and then roll it out so as to aim to make up their losses in this way.

We shoppers, most of us, just accept it. We’ve seen it happen before – it’s par for the course – an ‘act of God’ for us in our understandings. Yet why should we bear the cost of another’s losses, and I do not mean this in any Christian way of charitable provision for others who have had losses, but in a case when a person goes into business that person knows that like shares on The Exchange, sales can go up or down. Risk and reward are bandied around as being at the core and heart of entrepreneurial skill; so why does the entrepreneur not say – ‘it’s a fair cop – I’ll take the rap’?

I think he does not say so because he knows he can say anything and get away with it, including getting away with passing his losses down to the pockets of ordinary people, the consumers. The entrepreneur asks us, perhaps a little hurt: ‘why should I be ruined, it’s cruel for you to ruin me.’ But it’s ‘God’ ruining him isn’t it?; or rather the entrepreneur’s belief in that presumption of science and the scientists that they are able to cheat, and bypass, and shortcut, and devalue, nature, and the natural course of things, in this case of  growing crops, and make a good living thereby.

Nature is a canny lass; like Lincoln’s collective people, she will not allow herself to be be fooled all of the time by surrepetitious men and women who think themselves smarter than she is because they wear white coats and have pieces of paper to prove it.

On the steps outside the Central Law Courts in 2008 in New York when Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac went down stood wheelers and dealers waving in the air title deeds to ordinary folks homes, ex homes, and ex-homes to families now houseless, and a burden on public welfare, and at an utter loss what next to do to try to recover their lives; waving such deeds around in a public negotiation of deals with property traders, like scavengers on the steps, and who have probably more than one house in which they dwell already; and who were to be seen snapping up these titbit fortuitous bargains at knockdown basement prices.

This scene typifies the way the world is now set up to do business. It is the ordinary girl and guy and their families who have been set-up, and on whom every time the pain of loss and dissolution of assetts and savings fall. Everyone froma single step higher above them is able to and to a man always does feather their nests and safeguard and hedge their substance so as to be assured that any untoward businjess or losses are able to passed down to the bottom line of the consumer. And so they avert them themselves.

The way we are set up right now a guy or girl who needs money, who has none, and needs to borrow, he or she is penalised by having to bear a premium rate of interest on repayments of any loan he or she is able to get. Whereas the guy or girl who has money, and who feels like borrowing more to make with it an investment or such, with an eye to making yet more money; this guy or girl is rewarded with preferential borrowing rates of interest, much, much lower than the poor person’s rates.

Indeed Karl Marx in his heart was more Christian than is they way we have made our system to do business with. Marx said famously: ‘From each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs’. This is not so far from ‘from whom much is given, much is expected’. Marx is a sight nearer this gospel saying of Our Lord than are the bailiffs and the loan-sharks, the debt collectors and the bankruptcy courts.

The line of the ideologues who are most usually those who profit most out of this way of doing business, is that Capitalism and its mechanisms are a clear reflection of what they term ‘human nature’; by which they mean that the way we do business with our devil take the hindmost ethos is consonant with and fitted to our natural human bent or predispositions. The argument says in bare statement that we are not capable of behaving any better, and so it has to be like this – every other way is impracticable – men and women always fal back into this default position of ‘beggar my neighbour’ when doing transactions between one another.

As the Father of Economics (Political Economy) Adam Smith is hailed as saying;’ Men will always buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest’ – this is our ‘black gospel of commerce’ as we do it now. It is a Satanic gospel; it perpetuates itself because it is framed in terms, as an ideology, which preclude any other practical alternative way s of exchange and transaction.

It is framed in such terms and is promulgated to everyone down the cascade of class and race and education and status,by the very persons who have most money and most property and most high-life to lose and nothing to gain by allowing a possibility of any other, perhaps better, way of doing things.

Now, given that a person, anywhere, any person, is able to meet his/her bills day on day month on month, or their equivalents, and is in reasonable health and spirits, having a great deal of money is superfluous to such a person – de facto and de jure. Under such circumstances come into play as most important for a good life things like friendships, family, peace, and happiness, and maybe most importantly, hope.

Not many of us would agree with me on this – because our complete setup is geared to exalt and to adore the wealthy, the glossy, the sparkling and the leisured life and persons (in the public eye.) Everyone’s aspiration is to live California style as it were to get to Heaven without having to die. This too is the bait, the lure, the diversion, and the frame-up set in place for us by the same commercial and consumerist machine which is being constantly oiled and overseen by the persons who benefit most materially from it being set up in this way.

Dylan used a lyric ‘You’re only a pawn in their game’.

But you do not want to own untold riches of money and property, you only see this as the definitive vision for life because you have been told that it is by nearly everything advertised marketed bought and sold, and told constantly also by those doing the selling etc. True riches are not found in having overmuch money, overmuch property.

Open your eyes and see where true riches are to be had in limitless abundance; where a better life – a step change – a sea change – that greatly prized game-changer – that spiritual winning lottery ticket – that lifetime sweepstakes pool scoop, and enough, enough of this for everyone and anyone, real and true, authenticity and actuality, joy and peace, and good, good faith all round.

There’s a song not much heard now by a guy called Joe South: ‘Games People Play’. Its lyric is astute and an item worth your consideration in these regards on which I speak:

Oh the games people play now
Every night and every day now
Never meaning what they say now
Never saying what they mean

And they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they’re covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine whoa

Oh we make one another cry
Break a heart then we say goodbye
Cross our hearts and we hope to die
That the other was to blame whoa

Neither one will give in
So we gaze at our eight by ten
Thinking ’bout the things that might have been
And it’s a dirty rotten shame whoa

Talking ’bout you and me
And the games people play now

People walking up to ya
Singing glory Hallelujah
And they’re tryin’ to sock it to you
In the name of the Lord

They’re gonna teach you how to meditate
Read your horoscope, cheat your fate
And further more to hell with hate
Come on and get on board whoah

Talking ’bout you and me
And the games people play
Now wait a minute

Look around tell me what you see
What’s happening to you and me
God grant me the serenity
To just remember who I am whoah

‘Cause you’ve given up your sanity
For your pride and your vanity
Turn your back on humanity
Oh and you don’t give a da da da da da

I keep talking ’bout you and me baby
And the games people play now lala

I keep talking ’bout you and me
Oh and the games people play

Talking ’bout you and me oh
And the games people play now

 

A Land of Lost Contentment

I was listening to an interview, with a woman in her early sixties perhaps, who dwells in Merthyr Tydfil, a largish town in the famous South Wales Valleys; situated at the head of a valley; and served by a main highway known here locally as The Heads of The Valleys Road.

The interview was broadcast on BBC Wales televison; but first I want to offer you some background to Merthyr Tydfil, The Valleys, and their history; which will be all very germane to my continuing story.

The South Wales Valleys is one of those parts of the world distignuished by being a place where in the late 18th early 19th century what was to become known as The Industrial Revolution took root and took off.

In these valleys there was to be found to be mined coal and iron ore – in vast amounts. Over a course of say fifty years, from 1800 to 1850 these ‘green and pleasant lands’ in Wales transformed into what some slightly horrified commentators would use diabolical imagery to try to express.

Mining for coal and iron ore overtook everyone and everywhere hereabouts, so that by 1850 there were fires burning 24/7 and lighting up the night skies in huge high flames as ore was being smelted; and the coal and its slack covered the land in blackness and dirt. Huge manmade fissures and clefts and scars and lacerations had been made into mountainside after mountainside and the spoils removed and the wastes left strewn across the land.

The landscape indeed looked diabolic and Pandemonium itself rang not so loud into the nights and days with iron being wrought and worked and coal being hewn and loaded.

In these days it was the landowners who enjoyed most of the benefits of the wealth generated from this incessant infernal activity. One such landowner, local to where I now dwell was The Morgan Family; of whose ancestry came the infamous Captain Morgan of rum and piracy. The Morgans charged the locomotive companies hauling coal in interminable strings of trucks across Morgan land just one British penny per ton; and soon, with perhaps in excess of 250 million tons of coal crossing their lands every year for over a century, The Morgans were living in a stately home (still standing and where are tours of the house given yet from the UK National Trust by which one is able to see the Morgans still in all their past glories) and the Morgans had soon accquired vast parklands and estates. Theirs it was to live in style; whilst the miner and the smelter workmen came home after 12 hour shifts to a meal of staple items like potatoes, and bread products, little meat, little variation.

(It is said reliably in histories of this time that the Irish navvies who built the railroads of the UK in these years had on occasion fled Ireland because of a spate of famines in that land. The worst of these famines, those of the 1840s were said to be so severe that there were grown young Irish men and women who had been raised by their parents on little more than a potato diet. These young people had often grown up malformed and sickly and of stunted growth)

The miner and the iron worker were sometimes, not infrequently, paid not in coin of the realm but in tokens issued by an employer as pay to them; and these tokens were redeemable only at shops provided by the same employer. These shops were sometimes known as Tommy Shops. Abuse of their labour in this way was rife where this setup for miners prevailed.

Thus at the time of the outbreak of the First World War, the working people of Britain as a whole, and many of these were from the Welsh Valleys, who volunteered to fight in France were found to the tune of about 20 or 30 percent of them to be unfit for the frontline because malnourished or deformed or suffering from congenitial and deprivation-related illnesses. This is the actual history; the price our working ancestors paid for the life we have today. Our lives here and now today are largely lacking in certain essentials today; which lack is the subject of this article; but materially and physical-health-wise we are a kings and queens in comparison to our forefathers and mothers.

Miners and iron workers in The Valleys naturally and almost of a course formed tight knit and rock-solid communities of bonds and solidarities which unified them and thus aided their survival and enhanced their abilities to make ends meet. These communities became world famous in their heydays; and sentimental movies and songs were recorded and played on the daily lives of their peoples. In some of these Valley areas a Communist Party candidate was returned to the UK Parliament regularly during the 1920s and 1930s. The Valleys politics were always far left. Their close communities had proven to them that co-operation and unity were the ways which worked for them.

All this Valleys way of life more or less halted overnight during the 1980s. For years coal had been dwindling in its importance as the backbone of British industry; and oil had replaced much, most of coal’s work and value. Iron and steel too were beginning to be made far more cheaply in India and in China. The Valleys were in business still but their necessity to the nation, and to the world, was failing evermore year on year.

I won’t go into the bitter politics of it but in 1984 a National Miners Strike was called by the nation’s miners; in response to a decision by the UK government of the day to close more or less all the coal pits in Britain.

(I need to add here something I have inadvertently omitted which you need to know. The Coal Industry and the Steel Industry of Great Britain since the early years after the First World War had been in the ownership, technically, of the British people; but in fact but owned, run and managed from day to day by successive UK governments. Thus we said in those days that Iron and Coal were ‘Nationalised Industries’. Hence the government had power to kill off these industries; as they succeeded in doing)

After nearly a year long strike, which took the UK government to the very brink of collapse and the nation to the very brink of a workers’ revolution; more by good luck than by design the government won out and the miners caved. There had been seen on TV during this year massed police in pitch battles with striking miners. The nation was divided between the secure and the insecure the haves and have-nots. I have heard on national media a claim stated and corroborated that certain individuals and some of these high up in the UK’s armed forces at this time, were putting in place contingency plans to stage a military coup here were the miners to have been able to have claimed the victory.

To use another politician’s phrase ‘at a stroke’ the mines died; the miners became unemployed; the pits got shut down and were allowed to flood and their maintenance way left to deteriorate; so that the likelihood of them ever being able to be opened up again for working is extremely low. They never have been.

This sudden closure of the mines meant that ‘at a stroke’ the miners communities were also destroyed economically; and thus the South Wales Valleys became no longer an inferno of diabolical sights and sounds happening all day and night; they were now destitute and demoralised and the history of coalmining here was over.

The 1980s were lean years for many British working people; for the working people of South Wales they were some of the leanest. Their communities lost over time gradually their strong bonds and co-operative social unities; and they have been left to live with the grossly unsightly messes of slagheaps, of mountainsides of scars and black dirts, dug out holes, and rusting redundant haulage, plant, and pit machineries. Like a bad hangover the communities suffered utter loss and humiliation.

Since that demise and over a course of nearly forty years since; The Valleys have recovered in a limited degree. The consumer economy has brought shopping and service facilities into these areas, the very same type of economy which drives the engines of Britain across this nation today. The Valleys’ infernal wilderness has been exchanged for a commercial wilderness; where life is samey and diversified only by a change of local shopping venue for inhabitants from time to time.

This then is the backdrop to the woman in her late sixties who was interviewed at Merthyr and seen on TV a few days ago.

Now far from the Welsh Valleys having voted for Britain to remain in the European Union; I say far from because these Welsh Valleys owed much of their economic regeneration – such as it is – after the pits closed – to EU funding and projects which helped deprived Member communities. Instead of a vote to remain in the EU the people of The Valleys almost across the board voted for Britain to leave the European Union. It is well established that the question in people’s minds here in The Valleys, as was the case across Britain generally, was not stay in or come out of the EU; but first and foremost: ‘How else can we stop immigrants coming into Britain?’

The Referendum offered to our people ostensibly on a basis of whether we should stay in or leave the European Union was won by those politicians who would leave the Union simply because the voters of the UK, a majority, saw a NO vote to be an answer to their supposed problem of ‘too many immigrants’ coming to Britain.

Now I have written elsewhere how our people were fed this line and approach – to see the Referendum question solely in terms of the immigration question – by their leaders; as it were encouraged by politicians to see that a NO vote would be a curb immigration. The politicians wanted different ends to the ordinary people; they wanted to stage a ‘silent coup’ or rather, as they phrased it ‘to reclaim back our nationhood’. In fact it was a power grab they wanted – sheer raw power – and they could not brook the fact that persons in Brussels – in another country – were trumping their domestic wishes and rules and laws and ideas.

Like the persons who voted against immigration, these politicians too held a close-to-racist premise according to which they cast their votes to leave the EU. Dislike of foreigners basically.

Now this woman in Merthyr – she had voted to leave the EU – and she lives in an area of Wales which in reality has received very few, scarcely any, immigrants from other nations. Yet her sole and prime reason for voting to leave she openly confessed was to stop immigrants coming into Britain. (This is a commonplace phenomenon here; that persons/regions least in contact with ‘foreigners’ voted to turf them out, and bear the most prejudice)

Her tesimony went something like this; I hope I have the main points here;

I voted for us to leave because of the immigrants. I know it sounds racist but I hope I’m not a racist? There’s too many of them. I want our country for the British, even though many called British are now allsorts. I want to go back to a time when Britain was British – even though perhaps it never was like that – even though I know I can’t go back – that that is all gone forever. I just don’t feel at home anymore.’

That is basically it, as far as I can recall, to reproduce what her drift was.

It struck me that this outlook of hers and the arguments she uses and the qualifications she makes are pretty commonplace ones; are a set of feelings felt by many many people who voted NO and so for us to leave the EU, and who have spoken out about their motives in the press and media. Overwhelmingly so, the working people of the UK, especially those of lower social standing and of moderate education and of lesser privilege shared, continue to share, this mindset of views.

Because it is a commonplace set, I do not mean to deride it or make light of it. In fact I want to look at it as a package deal and attempt to unearth what is as far as I can see actually behind such an outlook?

(In a fortnightly magazine my wife takes which castigates and ridicules the follies of our times and of our rulers, there was recently a cartoon joke. An old lady is at a rail station ticket kiosk. Handing over her money she asks the ticket person: ‘I’d like a return to simpler times, please?’. This joke has some bearing on where I am heading to)

Over half the population of Britain is above 60 years of age. Most of this half, – 90 plus percent – are retired from work and living on pensions and other assets they have accumulated. The Merthyr lady no doubt was one such.

In Britain there is a massive commercial industry based solely upon nostalgia. There are day after day new products and new services being added, being offered in this vein to supply and to fuel a desire for ‘a return to simpler times’. We have it seems as many tribute music bands making good livings offering secondhand nostalgia trips; as there are young person’s bands and artistes and celebrities around.

We also have television channels which offer persons of some age means to relive their past years through old movies, old newsreels, histories, and through consciously retro style shows and performances. We have here advertised frequently, collections – always on disk – always a ‘box set’ – of songs and movies popular in the 1950s, 1960s 1970s – always pitched at grandma and grandad – for them to lose themselves – to get away from the present – in a haze of yesterdays.

Besides this there is a great industry in older person’s dating and social clubs, on and offline, there are the ubiquitous sea cruises and elderly-person’s specialised holidays; and a great number of other niche ventures for ‘seniors’ which together make up a considerable discrete part of the UK national economy.

It is in large part accepted and acceptable here that when a British person reaches a certain age, s/he should jettison life in the present, at least in part, sometimes utterly, and prefer legitimately to relive at secondhand a past part of their lives. This outlook is encouraged, socially and commercially (it is difficult to separate these two aspects in our nation); and enjoyed; and widespread.

Now I myself am now 67. I have felt also like many of my age that ‘the times they are a changing’ to a point that I seem to have ‘lived to long’ and so I seem sometimes to be ‘exiting’ the world slowly by way of a perceived redundancy of usefulness and a lack of general public interest in me. One gets sidelined very quickly here once one gets older.

The Welshman Dylan Thomas springs to mind here. He wrote as one of his more famous pieces a verse titled ‘Do not go gently into that goodnight’ – which title I think explains itself in our context here right now. I do believe provision is being made by commerce, by government, by social life as a whole here, for many of us elderly to ‘go gently into that goodnight’ as comfortably and as prematurely as the market will bear.

How many ‘oldie’ movies are coming out in these latter years. Those ‘On Golden Ponds’ and ‘The Bucket List’ and ‘RED’ and ‘Driving Miss Daisys’ and so forth. Yes, age is a time for recapitulation; for a reassessment and a making atonement and provision; but no-one has the right to ‘give up on’ life and ‘like a crab I go backwards’. Life as adventure still rules. Not as an exploration, part of the general economically-driven, depredation of the planet; scudding here and there and absorbing everything, collecting views and thrills and ‘experiences’ as part of one’s happy-shopper consumerist consumption; to the Far East; South America; Antarctica; etc before the night falls in which no man or woman can tour.

The great philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote a famous popular book he titled ‘Adventures of Ideas’ – the word ‘adventures’ being ambiguous here – meaning both ‘adventuring into ideas’ and ‘putting forth suggestions of ideas’.

If/when we give up such a burning passion to keep going forwards, of course guided by the light of our pasts, but yet pressing on, attempting to make whatever we chose as our personal passion for life to be ever more of a reality in the world; from the humble carpenter to the highbrow physicist or the impassioned composer, to the man who collects matchbox labels and the woman who studies archaeology; whatever it is which we chose, we go ever forward never resting on laurels or calling it a day. For what we chose is, has become, whom we are; it is one’s character. Indeed ‘Do not go gently into that goodnight’.

The lady from Merthyr knew she was ‘living a dream’ – she admitted at least twice in her confessional that she knew her vision for the future of Britain was based on a wistful reverie of sunny, imaginary yesterdays – which never were and never can be – yet she voted on their strength in her silly heart. A protest? A surrender? A loss of distinction between fact and fiction? A throwaway whimsical wish? All of these and all done at least half-consciously. What does this say to us – about her and about that 50% of Britain who nearly all I fear are in much the same nevernever land of fantasies?

It says that their hardheadedness is melted and gone; and alas they do not care that it has gone. The younger British have sidelined the Merthyr woman and her like, she is allowing herself to be ‘on the way out’ gently, and is almost serenely acceptant of the fact; so she seems to have believed her vote was of no moment, of no power – but not in the real world – but in the world she is making for herself in her head. “It just doesn’t matter, I’m only on the sidelines.”

This is the triumph of daydream over hope – and over going forwards, for hope is only possible to retain by going forwards; a retreat is a surrender of hope to something nebulous like destiny, fate, whatever.

And what is one able to do with such a people of this mind? They are no longer amenable to reasoned argument; not prepared any longer to face the fact of the world as it presently is; and to act in it as the marriage service has it – ‘for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, from this day forth…’.

There’s an old saying; ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’, and this is our situation of today -it is certainly no Golden Age. Yet rather than retreat from its brashness and helterskelter mad rush and grab; its sterile marketing and loathsome terms and conditions, reservations, qualifications, impositions and derelictions; instead of conceding a defeat and a failure; stay with it and believe – that Truth will conquer at the last – but not by means f constraints, or by oppressions, not by violence and aggression, nor in any way but in The Way of Love; so that the battle is ever for recovery of that Land of Lost Contentment; but not as pure myth and reverie, nor as daydream or as a wistful deliberate self-deception; but by means of one’s outward actions in due regard towards the next person, whomsoever that next person might be, a person for whom one is able, one is privileged, to serve and care for in God’s Name.

Nationalism Not Racism? Globalism not Capital Hegemony?

These questions to my mind answer themselves by way of their antitheses; but let’s look a little at why for me they answer themselves by a negation of assumptions they question.

Let’s first dispel the glose of camouflage placed over either Globalism or Nationalism, whichever item you favour, by the press and by public media; by governments, by all mainstream public commentators. This camouflage acts to hide attitudes and positions which in truth are pretty sordid and it does so by means of calling spades other than spades, and by way of a legerdemain with language worthy of Room 101.

(Room 101 is the numbered office in which the absolutist dictator Big Brother is finally revealed to reside in the novel of political scepticism and despair ‘1984’ by George Orwell)

One of Orwell’s three Public Ministries of government in 1984 was named ‘MiniTruth’ – the other two were called ‘MiniLove’ and ‘MiniPeace’. Each title of the three Ministries represents an utter misnomer; a deliberate set of euphemisms for the real business they carry out. MiniTruth disseminates ubiquitous propaganda; MiniLove acts to keep citizens in a micromanaged thraldom; MiniPeace wages constant war by policy on the other continental geopolitical blocs (Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceana) into which the world of 1894 is divided up.

Orwell was perhaps one of the very the first of the writers of late industrial times (1920 to 1950 he was active) who made a great point of moment about the intimate profound connection between manipulation of language and misuse of political power. This connection in all its depravity is to be seen unpacked and analysed in others’ later political works of literary standing such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Cancer Ward’ and his ‘The Gulag Archipelago’, and less illustriously perhaps it is seen discussed in Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange.’ Spy thriller writers of some standing like John Le Carre almost by default make hay with the way language is used to disguise what is really going on in its use by secretive or oppressive governing organisations.

But make no mistake, the large worldwide business interests are likewise very much so culprits in the same manner, and to the same extent as are the public bodies and government offices.

Worldwide business itself is no less political and ideologically-driven than are tyrannical governments. It also misuses language to make its inroads upon us everyday Mr and Mrs Bloggses.

Think of the language and ambience of all that advertising it does; which might be described fairly as being a deliberate conscious and crafted attempt to play upon ordinary persons’ human feelings and desires so as to persuade them to buy; and with a certain amount of cynicism to use whatever emotive leverage regulators will allow for it to gain sales. But there is much more about international business to be said than just about its advertising model.

This then is my contention; not original; not regulatory; but yet restating what is in fact the case somewhat clearly might be of use and benefit in some regards and I cannot see how it can be overall detrimental to the general welfare to do so. So let us proceed.

Since in The West the election to The White House of Donald Trump and the decision of Brexit to leave the European Union by the UK in the year 2016 both; commentators mainstream have unanimously been at work in presenting these radically and outrageously new turnings in political life, as things such as ‘a triumph for democracy’ and ‘the will of the people prevailing’ and ‘ a return to nationalism’ and ‘a rejection of globalism’ and so forth.

Commentators have gone an extra mile or two well out of their ways to play down these outrageous events by denying as far as their convoluted and devious thought patterns are capable of allowing them to do, that they are in fact insular responses and made against immigrants in particular; against foreigners based in in Brussels in the UK; and in the USA, against foreigners whose efforts are making the meteoric rise of the Far East as an economic force, and as a protest at the toll on domestic jobs this rise has taken.

These barebones facts are often too hot potatoes to be shared with media audiences straight out. They in fact tell too much truth. A better strategy for media pundits has been to deflect from these widespread visceral pretty ignoble feelings and responses – I don’t want to share with you etc – and to couch the naming of these retrograde changes now coming about as ‘a return to nationalism’ and a ‘rejection of globalism’, and a ‘taking back of political power into the people’s hands’ and so on.

These ‘alternative facts’ as presented by our media men and women sound rather better to the ear of an audience who voted in effect against foreigners and against immigrants and against sharing and for the self and for a retrenchment saying ‘what we have we hold’, and who have said in their hearts ‘no’ to outwardness and to expansiveness, to generosity, and worst of all ‘no’ to their own common human sympathies. Both Trump and Brexit represent I have no doubt and in plain speaking – represent a mean and low, selfish and even angry and self-righteous rejection of common human values and sympathies.

The UK here has been agonising about allowing certain children into this nation, a few hundred at most, on the grounds that some of them ‘look older’ than the upper age limit. Thus nowadays even our charitable deeds are pored over and sifted by near and narrow minds before they give them their sparse approval and severe critiques. Worst is that such siftings and narrow investigations of charitable acts has become an acceptable and so has become an assumed-to-be-valid activity across the nation, to be done for and by us. No more might a good many of us sit in our National Theatre auditorium and hear Portia speak:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice”

Not without her words ringing hollow in our hardened hearts.

As a nation, as a public media, we do not want to face these facts, these home truths about ourselves, and I myself expect to be shot as being the messenger of their import to many. Another writer, Oscar Wilde, coined yet another Shakespearean allusion when he said of his accusers who had put him on public trial and cause him great humiliation that in his shaming they were feeling; ‘The rage of Caliban seeing himself in a mirror for the first time.’ Thus are the rewards and glories for telling truth in terms not glosed over or sugared.

Frequently nowadays, as such opportunities for showing mercy, generosity, and kindness arise, there speaks out some thinktank (a thinktank is a band of privileged persons who give themselves a sonorous and authoritative sounding name, and thus set themselves up as experts on policy and on social and political management, having little more expertise or right to comment on such matters than does any other concerned entity in the nation). Often thinktank policy recommendations betray their well-heeled ‘respectable’ and niggardly origins; offering such ideas as ‘elderly persons losing their Winter Fuel Allowance – at £200 presently – and this money being offered instead to foreign and domestic entrepreneurs; in effect bribing them to set up factories and services here in UK.

(Now don’t get me wrong, some entrepreneurs are indeed foreigners and so you think me a hypocrite? Please hold your fire for now until I get to a point later whereat I intend to discuss such important and prevalent issues and instances concerning all big entrepreneurs, foreign and domestic here and abroad; about them being such strong advocates of globalism, and simply because as globalism gains pace they are ever better-positioned to play the field and use the whole earth, the wide world at their utility; thus pitting pit governments against governments and nations against nations and peoples against peoples etc etc, so as to get ‘the best deals’ for themselves. Nothing more; nothing less. No question.)

Another thinktank idea which arises from the murk every now and then is that the UK should cut its foreign aid monies it pays gratis to less fortunate nations and economies. Be it known here that this princely sum is a fraction of a % of our GDP and it comes to desperate nations not wholly gratis but often, mostly, with strings attached. It may be that it has to be spent on British goods and services; it may be paid as armaments or what is coyly termed ‘for defence purposes’; it may require some binding obligations from the recipient nations. Milton Friedman’s ‘free lunch’ is nowhere to be seen. Greeks bearing gifts.

Thus we have in this proud nation of ours then persons being paid handsome sums for putting forward such nasty grubby and unseemly policy initiatives as these. They are supported simply enough as one would expect, but which is kept out of the story, by those who might benefit most from their measly stratagems – usually the big entrepreneurs. Indeed many of the thinktank club members are those very same entrepreneurial persons or else they owe their high offices to their favours.

I saw something in a tiny grubby leaflet I was handed by a man on the street some weeks back; and which I read through in part today. In it I came across a small motto which said: ‘Hell will have millions of wills hating each other’. It was a crazy leaflet in some ways, but this motto struck me as having hit on the very head the nail which is the essential problem of our world in general; and which has been for millennia. No less an atheist than the feted French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre is renowned for having written in his drama for stage ‘Huis Clo’ (No Exit) that “Hell is other people”. (Nice to have an accord amongst such adverse company).

Indeed as Our Lord made plain; ‘from whom much is given, much is expected’, yet we find those who have the most – in the material and worldly senses only – in fact bear also the largest egos with the most domineering wills – they are those who must have their ways wherever their wills show an interest. One does not need to have a doctorate in logic to be able to work out the final third of the syllogism here.

Let us recap a little here. The electorates in UK and in USA have sought to vote for their narrow self-interest and in doing so have expressed selfishly their feelings and have repudiated foreigners and immigrants, denied sharing, and any merciful hospitality, and have voted as they see it to ‘take back control’; and thus ‘the people’s will is heard’. This in the media is being expressed as being an anti-globalism response, a return to nationalism, a rejection of governance remote from the electorates’ sympathies and from its burning issues, a democratic triumph etc. In this the media are icing a cake which holds bitter nasty fillings, yet to be tasted.

The international businesses are coming out for pro-globalism, and are likewise as the politicians and media using words and language as weapons in their wars of propaganda; so as to win the spoils at stake. International business prefers globalism because it sees globalism as the lubrication which allows it to wheel and deal as it likes, using the earth as its plaything and the peoples and creatures of the earth as boardgame pieces to be juggled ever to its best selfish advantages.

We here in the UK have honoured entrepreneurs who have clearly followed only their own best selfish interests, and we hallow them as ‘national treasures’ and set them up in our schools as persons to be emulated as role models. Some are seen on national television from time to time and show themselves to be disgraceful persons – but the public like it – we enjoy seeing such villains destroying with humiliation and disgrace others who are stood before them for judgement.

All the skills and character traits of these types of men and women whom we are setting up as laudable, desirable, even praiseworthy, for us and our children to look up to and to copy; these business outlooks and their fiercely and even nastily framed minds; they are all repugnant and ugly and cannot by any means be seen as being charitable or concerned for others, but rather they almost to a man betray themselves to be Little Caesars and Lesser Napoleons; who would likely see men and women suffer and die in droves so as to preserve their standing, wealth, and status. Stalin was no less – nor Hitler – yet in business today we laud it we approve it we recommend it – we are sick, sick, sick.

So in this we agree: rich and poor; entrepreneurial globalist and narrow bigoted citizen nationalist – the insular guy; that we serve ourselves only and exclusively, and we draw inwards our charitable selves and consider only our own wills and their selfish preferment, without regard to others.

Thus rich and poor we deserve one another; we share the same disregard for others and lack of care for them also. Thuswise, reaping what we sow we shall share in and deserve one another’s fates. No pleasure in saying so; inevitable though.

‘The Philistines are a upon thee.’ Indeed. Indeed.

(Two instances of what we have sown in recent years. Here in UK almost universally, I cannot speak for the USA, except to say I am sure it has its own skeletons in the closet, our UK press and media has backed Ukraine and Syria, the rebels in Syria against Assad, and the pro-Europeans in Ukraine; in short, we have encouraged those factions most akin – ostensibly – to our own political ways; and have shown encouragement to them. Our forces here in UK have actually bombed Assad’s troops.

In Ukraine we have helped along discontents by holding out as a temptation to the pro-Europeans a chance of joining NATO: even of EU membership – this has been voiced at times. And I fear we have shown ourselves in this encouragement to be at least as much aiming at a ‘poke in the eye’ for Assad and for Putin as our motives having sprung of a truly humanitarian charity.

We have in short meddled; we have meddled wherein we ourselves would not have tolerated another nation meddling with us. We have indulged ourselves. We have been egocentric in attempting to foist our fine ways and means of doing things on other peoples; because our ways we feel are those that are ‘the best’.

The point here is not whether our ways of life indeed are ‘the best’ or not; the point is indeed that we have presumed that they are and have tried to boast as it were that ‘we are the champions’; and in the face of and in some degree in spite of the upsets and sufferings any reasonable person might have foreseen were going to arise, we have with the help of such encouragements, dangled hopes held out, offered out of our self-conceits to nations whose peoples seemed already to be heading towards great distress. We have aided and abetted here – and in part for our greater glory.

For us in UK to turn our backs on many many refugees fleeing Syria and seeking succour here; when Germany has accepted a million in the space of a year , and when we have been to some degree instrumental in the making of the situation in Syria; this is a sad state of things. Of course no-one was or is able to foresee surely how events like those in Syria and Ukraine were/are going to develop, nonetheless the human charity when it was required of us has not been forthcoming.)

The Loss of Reading

I heard a radio show in which a guy with some ideas about the future was predicting the end of reading within the next two or three decades. A silly thing to say; but these guys get their fees for their presence.

Now I visit quite a lot of bookshops; on and offline. And I have done so for 30 or more years now; and for that time I have been based in the same city in South Wales. I have seen a considerable amount of change come over books and bookselling in those years.

To be frank; bookshops are now filled say around 80% with materials which would have had difficultly finding a publisher 50 years ago. My personal opinion is that much of it should not have been published.

Now I am not some Puritan denouncer of popular fiction; there are in my opinion very good reasons why so much that is being published ought not to be published. I doubt many of these reasons are business ones.

I believe it was some philosopher who noted how one thought in one’s mind is able to drive out another; when the idea supplanting has sufficient force from some direction to supplant the idea exiting one’s consciousness. Simply, when the telephone rings and one is drawn away from what one is doing to answer; often once the call is done one is at a loss as to whereabouts one was up to etc.

The important thing to note in this example of the telephone call is that the call might be a spam call; whereas what you were in the middle of doing might have been a bit more important and relevant to your life; say, checking the dinner in the cooker? Thus it is not true to say or to believe that it is always the case that more important or urgent thoughts drive out the less urgent and less important ones. I believe it was Lord Byron who said, when at his desk writing poetry and he was asked by a lady whether she was interrupting him; ‘Yes: damnably so!’

My chief argument supporting my contention that much of what is published these days ought not to have been relates to a situation happening which is similar to Byron’s. The veritable avalanche of popular reading, of no special value and deliberately created and consumed as ephemera, acts to drive out – from the retailers’ bookshelves; thus from one’s mind and sight; from the publishers’ lists; from the school curricula; from the attention of a reading public in general; that core library of books which, as Mathew Arnold has it, represent ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’.

I do believe that so many titles are nowadays published by policy as a kind of scattergun approach of the publishers in an attempt by them to either hit or miss with the reading public. A palpable hit, such as Fifty Shades or The Jesus Conspiracies, is a moneyspinner of huge proportions, especially when movie and other franchise rights stack up alongside the paperback venture. Thus publishers are pursuing business models similar to those of large pharmaceutical companies; whose four or five ‘blockbuster’ drug items which go global virally, act to bring in the income which sustains the whole operation of research and development of many many other drugs which never get beyond the early testings of them.

And just as pharmaceutical patents are applied for by the drug companies on almost everything newly developed by them; just in case one or two unexpectedly turn out to be a massive winner; so patents applied for in general follow much the same pattern – their owners apply in the hope and faint chance one or two might be game changers for them and sometimes for the world. Thus in pharmaceuticals, in patent applications and in publishing of popular fiction; waste is rife and even encouraged, because the thought of letting that golden wining ticket get away from one is such a fearful and such a dangerous thought for its potential owners to contemplate There was a local man here a few years ago now who threw his old PC onto the corporation dump; instead of having it recycled for parts in the proper manner. Saved himself time and a small fee. Only later did he remember he had bought several hundred bitcoin in the early days of the crypto-currency and that he had left their credentials and whereabouts on his PC now eroding on the dump. In theory, could he find it again, he was a multi-millionaire. Could he find it again? No. The corporation dump is a vast wilderness of waste and of rejected goods; no maps exist; nor landmarks. That guy knows how it feels to have thrown away a golden ticket; and for a few pounds saved.

Pharmaceuticals, patents, and publishing are three pretty clear and parsable across the board items, shining examples, of the inherent enormous wastage built into how we do business. In the glorious and bogus name of freedom we hail such wastage as collateral damage – or rather ‘we’ do not, but only that public ‘we’ to whom nobody who earns less than £50k per annum ever dreams of belonging. This is the ‘we’ of the broadsheet newspapers, and the ‘we’ of the readership of The Economist and of Forbes and of Investors Chronicle and so forth; it is not the ‘we’ or even near the same ‘we’ as those of us who wander down to the pub on a Saturday afternoon for a pint and to watch the football. Our of-late Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was very soundly thrashed on the TV satire shows upon him having pronounced on the huge income deficit owned by the UK that ‘we are all in it together’. Perhaps he ought to have explained this to Google UK and to Starbucks UK and to several more dozen large enterprises whose total tax revenues for the past decade have been a very minute percentage of profits compared with the percentages the rest of the nation paid. But I am wandering off my topic.

Much, maybe most of what is published today is never sold; or at least never sold in quantities which make profits for its publishers. Thus either virtually or in actuality most publications are shredded and pulped. I mean virtually because I believe there is a ‘trial run’ a small ‘batch’ of a title in an initial run published; with a swift option at the ever ready to swing into gear and so print off those thousands more needed desperately were a title to suddenly ‘take off’.

This business model implies a few presumptions on the part of publishers. Firstly it implies that they themselves feel that they have no idea what sort of thing might ‘take off’ and what might end up on the corporation tip. Secondly, this state of unknowing of publishers is perhaps based on their experience of late years; and indeed publishers have been taken by surprise by the public several times in recent years, and so may have hammered out this model so as to make the best of the situation? I know of several massive-seller moneyspinner authors and their titles which have been ‘out there’ and ‘lying fallow’ for a number of years before they became massive commercial successes. So hanging onto the commercial rights to these works and to their authors becomes vital to publishers – on that off-chance of ‘liftoff’.

If my analysis is in the right area of the field then it follows that the reading public itself not only calls the shots with their purse strings; but their shots go off haphazardly and to no predictable pattern. Publishing then becomes a lottery; just as are the pharmaceuticals industry and the patent applications aspirations.

Once again businesses and business men are playing poker blind and are ‘hoping for that card that is so high and wild they’ll never need another’. Only it is the public consumer who is funding their bad gaming habits; who is obliged to pay astronomical prices for a dose of medicine whose materials and manufacture cost next to nothing; who is obliged to pay monopoly prices for a patented item which is a two a penny thing in fact; who is obliged to pay a minimum of £8 for a thin paperback because so much else in the shop will never sell in quantity.

These three industries will have justifications for the ways they run their businesses; and for the huge waste this running of them entails implicitly and explicitly. These justifications will be couched in terms of the benefits of their models to the consumer; it is for them just as Robert Browning said: God’s in His heaven; and all’s right with the world’.

Thus our corpus of readers of popular fiction do not show any consistency in the choices they make, nor of whom they escalate to authorial stardom, and whom they leave to wallow; so that those titles which ‘take off’ are to all appearances random and chaotic successes; what might this say about our popular taste? That this itself is changeable and unsettled; liable to whim and to chance occasions? And if this is the case then what might the prospect be for those titles which have been crowded out of the booksellers’ bookshelves and of which it has been claimed that they represent ‘the best that has been said and thought in the world’?

I had always believed and had been taught to believe and my own experience has borne out this belief that by reading from that corpus of books which might be called the canon of classic literature (not forgetting also other subjects of study) a person is thus developed in one’s taste into a settled and discriminating reader. Yet when there are but few classics of the canon available, as is the case right now in all of the booksellers stocks who sell new books in my home city, then how might a settled and sound taste for good reading be developed these days? (The classics of the canon are in my city and in other cities of the UK more likely to appear on shelves at secondhand dealers in books, and at completely stupid bargain basement prices – you cannot give them away! Many of these secondhand outlets tell me they pulp many of these canonical items. ‘A good book is the precious life blood of a master spirit’ said John Milton. What are we doing to these master spirits’ life-bloods?)

So, reading is on course to disappear within two or three decades?

No.

The business model of the publishers which is one which is profitable for them to adhere to, with its scattergun approach to numbers and kinds of titles published, necessarily requires a great reservoir of authors writing – for it to be sustainable. Now in a generation of writers, and considering there is a universal literacy in the UK today, say two hundred persons writing in any fully literate generation will be survivors of the tests of time, and be known by name at least to some persons living a century hence. Thus the competent writers are very few and far between.

Thus the reservoirs of authors held in hand by publishers right now comprise far and away mostly low quality writers; writers who might be better doing something else. Each of them is hoping for just that 15 minutes of fame bequeathed to them by the late Andy Warhol. By my reasoning in this article it appears to follow that occasionally some of these authors waiting and hoping do get their day in the sun. Certainly there are titles I can mention which fall into this category of ‘time and chance happeneth to all’.

Were the business model to be different; so that room was available once again on the bookshelves for more titles from the classics of the canon; it does seem to follow that readers would become more discerning; and so more appreciative of books and of a growing refinement of taste. The classics would become, as they always had been, steady sellers, not megabucks in a flash in the pan, but a steady income, and pretty solidly guaranteed. But we all want to live in California, and we won’t settle for a dream of a warm, dry, comfortable semi detached in South Wales.

A few things to note. When I first came to my now home city there were many classics of the canon to be found in just two or three new book bookshops. There was a remainders bookshop which discounted many books which were of considerable literary or technical value. Over the years, as the classics of the canon have passed on and died from, disappearing from, National School Curricula, the presence of these classics in the shops has dwindled likewise. It’s not just the schools; the rise of silicon and nano tech; of CGI and of adventure movies; of a hundred and one new things for children and adults to spend time on relaxing; this has all helped to relegate the classics of the canon to a very distant back seat.

Yet for all these one hundred and one new things to do life as a whole for many people is far more ‘samey’ than it was 40 years ago – there is little in the range of subject matter in these one hundred and one new things from which to choose. Everyone complains and they perceive and are correct that from 4 TV channels forty years ago to over one hundred now; and yet too often there is nothing on to watch. Because of this ennui of ‘sameyness’. A few main genres and that’s it. Very little daring, experimentation, off the wall, out of the box, risky to produce, and pushing boundaries stuff; only the same safe staple bread and butter police/detective; action/thriller; horrid degrading reality shows; and ubiquitous sport.

Our pastimes have become machine-like; factory-manufactured formats and content; as if there was a magic formula one dare not deviate from which is assured to sell and to keep us to our sofas. Our reading is a reflection of this aiming for a magic silver bullet. Harry Potter hits the world for six; and starts a flurry of novels and movies in the same vein, all attempting to reinvent the wheel; and to hope to patent it.

The masses of titles of popular reading published likewise are aiming at quirky; aiming at niche; aiming at that odd and novel angle; but in all by far the most are very much yesterday’s creatures of a day successes done into fancy dress. Of all the things to be in the world to be novel and do something new is perhaps one of the hardest. Einstein ‘stood upon the shoulders of giants’ Dr Johnson maintained that ‘for a man to write one book he has to have digested many’; and the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes is perhaps overwhelmed by the difficulty in being new; ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ he laments.

And perhaps the paradox of it all lies in this from Alexander Pope:

True wit is nature to advantage dress’d,
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d,
Something, whose truth convinc’d at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.”

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You can also find this article at steemit: https://steemit.com/books/@matthew.raymer/the-loss-of-reading

Post-Truth

Grasping at straws we broke the camel’s back
Our appetites for fables t’was that brought us low
Smart tenderings at the Bank of The Established Fact
Unclear the banks and banknotes counterfeits or no

Sure grounds for general confidence is thinning-out,
Encroaching loss surrenders up so slowly small
Fine millings of imposture, here at high command,
Are The Philistines amongst us
Yea, know them by their unbeholden drawl
Of elegant temporisings, dances round the heels
Of bona fide governance

Comensuration with what is, anon, become a bubble,
By-chance infatuations rise astir as soft-soap drivel,
And plainly won’t-wash overalls now no longer wear the trews,
But flimsy wear, sheer delicates, spin elegant fair views

Invented truth spreads comely, a delicious blithesome tart
Shining things underlining, undermining with some art
That pretty place in politics where opinion’s good report
Unfastens thighs and giggles,

Worthiness works-out ways, even the toughest hassles eases
Hoofing the sweated circuits all the d’Artagnans well-arrayed
Contemptuously denounce another’s sanctimonious wheezes
In rubber-supple words

Whether truth blubbers yet, and as yet honesty
Sits holding baby comfortably in nested arms
Or bathwater completely baled him out to a lower depth?
Sing, avatars.

 

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You can also find this poem at our steemit blog: https://steemit.com/poetry/@matthew.raymer/post-truth

Concert or Consort?

The words are brothers. ‘consort’ is an olde worlde form of the word ‘concert’; in former days it meant a programme of musical entertainment. Hence you have quaintly named early-music bands today who call themselves ‘The Consort of Music’; and ‘The Consort of Viols’ (punning on the word ‘consort’, which also means ‘to meet together’.

The musician Henry Lawes, friend of the poet John Milton, who himself was an accomplished musician and the son of an accomplished musician, wrote a piece he titled ‘A Consort for Voyces’.

The way we use the two words nowadays is more particular and rigorous than their former almost synonymous usages of the past. A ‘consort’ is a band – of musicians, or of people who have combined for activities which may be other than music; whereas a ‘concert’ is very definitely a set programme of musical works to be performed publicly.

The two words ‘consort’ and ‘concert’ share a basic idea of a ‘coming together’ of people or of things so as to make a unified entity or an entity which might be called a ‘set of things’.

Take the phrase ….‘I want you to make a concerted effort…’ – even when this is said to a single person there is a sense in it which means that the speaker is asking the hearer to ‘pull themselves together’ and bring to bear in unison all their faculties to get a job of work done.

‘Concertina’ is not just a musical instrument rarely heard in ‘concerts’ but it is a ‘squeeze-box’ wherein to play its notes one must press together the item; thus it works by way of a ‘coming-together’

A ‘consort’ is a person who ‘goes-together’ with another person and accompanies the other person; in public appearances or on romantic dates; or both.  To ‘consort’ with someone else is to ‘get together with them’ to be in their company a lot.  A ‘consortium’ is an association, usually today of business people who are seeking together – have come together indeed – for the purpose of undertaking a joint business venture together.

A ‘concert’ is thus also a bringing-together of musicians and of pieces of music to be played by them in such a way as that the whole thing – musicians and music chosen – hangs together as a loose or as a more or less formal unity.

This coming together emphasises the social nature of people; Aristotle defined human beings as ‘creatures who live together in a society’.   The Greek for ‘coming-together’, or ‘congregating’ is ‘synagogia’; which is the same word which Jewish worshipers use to name their churches – ‘Synagogues’.  Jewish churches got this name via its use for the term ‘meeting place’ and found in The Septuagint. The Septuagint is a translation into Greek made by Jewish scholars of the Hebrew Bible, what Christians term ‘The Old Testament’.  This translation was made around 200 – 300 AD; and it was made by Diaspora Jews for their fellows who had joined The Jewish Diaspora. This Jewish Diaspora was a general dispersal of Jews across the Mediterranean World from their Biblical homelands in Asia Minor. It took place over a course of several centuries at a time when Jewish homelands under the rule and administration of The Roman Empire.

Many of the Jewish families scattered abroad at this time, had after several generations lost a familiar use of Hebrew; which they had used almost exclusively as their spiritual lingua franca; and the appearance of The Septuagint, by it having translated their scriptures into Greek was a response in order to supply these scriptures in an alternative language; a language which these Diaspora Jews remained able to read and to use fluently

Why then Greek and not Latin when under a Roman administration?  It was because Greek was a second language of Roman Empire; it was commonly in use across the Empire in those areas of life not political and not legislative; in the arts widely, and in some Roman ‘unofficial’ life such as leisure activities. The cultured citizens of Rome spoke both Latin and Greek; they used their Latin for official business and their Greek as an everyday choice for leisure time activities.  Roman art in all its forms and formats had almost entirely been was founded upon the arts of Hellos as the Greeks called their ancestry.

‘Synagogia’ then, like the English ‘concert’ and ‘consort’, is another word which has variants and family derivatives in English.

The first syllable ‘syn’ is used in English words to indicate ‘a being together’: the English word ‘synonym’ for instance means ‘a word bearing the same meaning as another word” (i.e. a coming-together in meaning); the word ‘synchronise’ means ‘a coming together in time’ – ‘chronos’ meaning ‘time’ as in the word ‘chronometer’, a timepiece; or the in word ‘chronicle’ meaning ‘a day to day record of history’. ‘Synergy’ means ‘a joining together of energies’.

A solid fact to be drawn from all this discussion about words is that words and peoples’ vocabularies are ever-changing; are in a constantly fluid state; albeit that changes might be moving faster in particular areas of language than in others; or at particular times or in particular regions.  There are other conditionals too which bear on the state at any given moment of a language.  This constant change and fluidity means that language at bottom is never able to be exactly precise as a tool which we use to attempt to express our thoughts and feelings.  Further, each one of us as individuals has a fund of historical experience behind us; and this personal history of ours acts to condition and so ‘colour’ many of the words which we use. This colouration means that each of us in particular caries as our baggaged a vast amount of discrete connotations which bear upon certain ideas, thoughts, memories, feelings, which we hold and which are a part of our characters. Such colourations are not likely to connote in exactly the same way for us as they might for any other person; they might connote less or more personally and so forcefully, for us than for any other person taken at random for comparison.

There was a German woman, a lectrice at a college I attended, and with whom I was acquainted. I recall vividly how she responded when she was being complimented by a student for her skills in sewing. She had kindly mended a lad’s coat for him. The student had said to her’ You’re a good seamstress’.  The lectrice had been seriously taken aback, and had been offended by the lad’s use of the word ‘seamstress’ about her. It soon became clear that she had not been fully conversant in her command of English with the fairly rarely used word ‘seamstress’.  Of course she had associated it with the demeaning word ‘mistress’; and I believe she had understood ‘mistress’ in that particular sense in which it means a kind of ‘chattel’ a woman as being a thing at the broad disposal of a man.

The German lectrice thus had mistaken the intention and so had utterly missed the compliment to her in the lad’s words; and she had believed that she was being treated like a useful artefact, in a subservient relation; and even possibly arose here some indignation at being thought a sexual plaything?

This fierce antagonism in her arose in part perhaps because of the nature of the word ‘mistress’ itself; which she had mistook the word ‘seamstress’. ‘Mistress’ itself is a word of some equivocal meaning; and equivocal because of the history of its changes of meaning and because of its diversity of meaning in its usage?  ‘Mistress’ in English is a title which commonly schoolchildren use to refer to their female class teacher – she is their form mistress; or maybe their headmistress. ‘Mistress’ is also a woman in charge of a household: ‘a house mistress’ or in former days ‘an inn mistress’ – who ran an alehouse. Shakespeare’s Mistress Quickly was such a woman; and without necessarily having any of the connotations associated with the notoriety of a woman being a married man’s concubine; being his ‘mistress’.

‘Mistress’ in the abstract might mean a woman who is accomplished in her chosen field of work or study; as in a phrase such as ‘She is mistress of all she surveys’ and as one might call a male artist and painter ‘An Old Master’. In our present age the word ‘mistress’ is becoming very quickly a word out of favour with us. Our liberal sexual mores demand we treat female partners of married men not as ‘supplements’ to his sexual enjoyment but as having an equal claim in the relationship.  The term ‘extra-marital relationship’ itself smells somewhat musty these days. Only in a historical context does the word ‘mistress’ when meant as referring to a sexual partner sound acceptable to many of us these days – otherwise it is when used today considered to be an old-fashioned term which stigmatises, persecutes, demeans women.

Even in the schoolroom, but not for sexual relations reasons, the words ‘headteacher’ and ‘teacher’ – gender-neutral terms – are used by schools and by education authorities so as to avoid sexual differentiations in titles and in professional positions.

Nowadays – that is an old-fashioned word – ‘nowadays’ – not many people use that word these days – similarly we have no longer ‘gunman’ on detective shows and on news bulletins on shootings, but instead the word ‘shooter’ is now used, and it has crept in from abroad – from the USA.  We have today quite ubiquitously women in the arts called ‘actors’ and ‘sculptors’; and in cafes women are ‘waiters’ and so on. The once exclusively masculine terms are now being applied across the board to these and to similar roles; as if in some way feminine equality with men of opportunity and choice was in fact to be desired in the format of women slavishly seeking after what men have always had and desired; thus labelling women as being surrogate men.

The French exclamation is; ‘vive la’difference’ and it celebrates the natural physical, physiological, and psychological distinctions which separate men and women as human beings. It is an exclamation not welcome in the company of those who would have women be aspirant to be like men.

Some years ago I went to a public meeting held by a women’s protest group. The meeting was taken up mostly with a fierce argument about the roles of nature and of nurture concerning bringing up children as boys and/or girls.  The activists held fiercely that girl children were being forced into their gender roles by convention and by parental expectations, by their presumptions and by their adherence to a social norm; whereas for some non-aligned parents present at the meeting their girl children they claimed they had found to gravitate instinctively, naturally, towards ‘girly’ things.

In such ways and by such social changes and challenges the sets of once-established idea contained in the words ‘female’  ‘woman’ ; ‘girl’; ‘she’, and so on; and by the same token the established senses in the words ‘male’ ‘man’ ‘boy’ ‘he’ and so on; have been and in the present continue to be something of a linguistic battlefield.  What is at stake is the normal social outlooks upon the genders of humankind in our daily lives.

In the daily usage, or avoidance, of gender-specific words very often words generally are having to be picked more consciously and more carefully in these and in other tendentious areas.  For many users of language this represents difficult and maybe confused choices to be made.   Persons who ‘wrongly’ choose in such ways and because of such confusions, cause themselves to be looked upon pejoratively as unfit persons; or else their usage of these ‘wrong’ choices carries with it an inherent moral blame and assumes a benighted outlook.

The same basic principles hold true in public life right now for other contemporary issues; such as race, disability, sexual orientation; cultural clashes; and for a few other ‘bogey’ topics and issues whereupon one has to be careful where one treads.

This consciously managed usage and non-usage of particular sets of terms and words in one’s language has become a very potent, perhaps one of the most potent, tools in the tote-bag of the people who carry on their social engineering campaigns.  These are campaigns carried out knowingly and deliberately, usually by pressure groups, by lobbyists, by government, by commercial interests; by all those who support the respective issues and concerns these lobbyists prefer. Some of us who take up these preferred words and terms may be sympathetic to their issues; or else we may be feeling guilty, or unsafe and insecure, uncertain, about not making use of them.

The question is not whether these causes of pressure groups etc are right or wrong good or bad; the issue is that one needs to be aware of this management handling, this deliberate manipulation of language so as to further a political or a social cause which is near to, and/or sometimes an anathema to, a pressure group’s heart.

Thus a study of words, of their changing usage, of their origins, of their analogues, and their synonyms; of their attempts at proximation to what we mean and to what we want to say; allows an awareness thereby to be created in us about other people’s takes on the nuances of any word or sets of words they use and advocate.  To be able to get a grasp on language in these ways enables a person to see more clearly what is going on around about; and so allows a person to be able to think through their own position and so to attempt towards a more objective vision of things in general.

                         “Words make a man: speak let me see thee” – Ben Jonson